The Original Fables of La Fontaine/The Schoolboy, the Pedant, and the Owner of a Garden

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(Book IX.—No. 5)

A youngster, who was doubly foolish and doubly a rogue—in which perhaps he savoured of the school he went to—was given, they say, to robbing a neighbour’s garden of its fruit and flowers. This may have been because he was too young to know better, and perhaps because teachers do not always mould the minds of young people in the right way.

The owner of the garden boasted in each season the very best of what was due. In spring he could show the most delightful blossoms and in autumn the very pick of all the apples.

One day he espied this schoolboy carelessly climbing a fruit tree and knocking off the buds, those sweet and fragile forerunners of promised fruit in abundance. The urchin even broke off a bough, and did so much other damage that the owner sent a message of complaint to the boy’s schoolmaster. This worthy soon appeared, and behind him a tribe of the scholars, who swarmed into the orchard and began behaving worse than the first one. The schoolmaster’s plan in thus aggravating the injury was really to make an opportunity for delivering them all a good lesson, which they should remember all their lives. He quoted Virgil and Cicero; he made many scientific allusions and ran his discourse to such a length that the little wretches were able to get all over the garden and despoil it in a hundred places.

I hate pompous and pedantic speeches that are out of place and never-ending; and I do not know a worse fool in the world than a naughty schoolboy—unless indeed it be the schoolmaster of such a boy. The better of them would never suit me as a neighbour.